Alcohol plays a part in many people’s lives. Most of us enjoy a drink at the weekend or after a hard day at work but alcohol is often one of the first things that is cut out when starting a weight loss or fat loss programme.
At PP we don’t believe in completely depriving ourselves of the things we enjoy as this will make it way harder to stick to a ‘diet’, so we’re going to look at how you can still enjoy a drink with friends without sabotaging your fitness goals.
Moderation not elimination
Diets or weight loss programmes are often made harder than they need to be. Depriving yourself completely of the foods and drinks that you enjoy will most likely result in you craving them. It will make you feel miserable and more likely to have a blowout or just go back to the way you used to eat and drink before starting your fitness journey.
A diet will be much more manageable if you moderate your intake of certain foods and drinks, including alcohol, without cutting them out all-together. A successful diet should be sustainable and enjoyable, and have minimal impact on your social life.
Despite our recommended approach of moderation rather than elimination, it is really important to be aware that alcohol is nearly as calorie-dense as fat. Alcohol contains 7kcals per gram, meaning it doesn’t take too many drinks for the calories to start really adding up.
As alcohol is generally consumed in liquid form it takes a lot less effort to knock back than eating solid food. And due to the fact that liquid calories aren’t particularly satiating it won’t take long for calories to mount up, particularly on a night out.
When drinking alcohol there is another calorie pitfall to watch out for … it will probably make you want to eat!
Alcohol and food
Alcohol and food go together like the proverbial horse and cart … it’s hard to avoid the fact that alcohol hinders dietary restraint and can result in you eating more food, often of the high-calorie variety – think burgers, kebabs, sugary foods. In layman’s terms, drinking gives you the munchies!
So, what can you do about this? If you know that you are likely to drink a lot on a night out, remove temptation from the house for when you get home. If there are high-calorie treat foods around, you are likely to eat them. If they’re not there, you can’t!
If you opt for a stop at the kebab shop on the way home it isn’t necessarily the end of the world, there are choices you can make to limit the damage. A chicken shish kebab is probably the lesser of a few evils. You’ll get carbohydrate from the pitta, protein from the chicken, and some good nutrition from the salad. As long as you don’t drown it in garlic mayonnaise you probably won’t be looking at much more than 500-600kcal.
On the other hand, a large Dominoes pizza probably isn’t the wisest of choices after consuming a skin full of booze and will most likely blow your calories for the week right out of the water.
Going out and enjoying yourself isn’t a case of eliminating everything, it just comes down to being smart with your approach and being sensible with what, and how much, you consume.
Preparation is key
As with eating out, preparation and planning are the key to going out drinking without ruining your diet. There are several ways you can prepare – you can look at your calories across the week and you can make smart choices when you’re out.
So, what can you do leading up to a night out? The easiest way to factor in alcohol is to look at your calorie average across the week. If you know that you are going out on Saturday night, you have Monday to Friday to prepare. If you think drinking on Saturday will add 500kcals to your calorie budget you could reduce your calories by 100kcals per day for five days leading up to it.
7 days at 1500kcals = weekly average of 1500kcals
5 days at 1400kcals + 1 day at 2000kcals + 1 day 1500kcals = weekly average of 1500kcals
As you can see, despite the fluctuation in calorie intake day to day, the weekly average remains the same.
In reality, if you are going for a big night out it is easily possible to consume more than 500kcals extra as liquid calories are easily consumable and can accumulate quickly. Add in the fact that your will power decreases as your blood alcohol increases and you are probably looking at quite a lot of extra calories!
That’s where smart choices come in. There’s a big difference between the number of calories in a white spirit with a diet mixer and a pint of standard lager. Take a look at the table below:
|Drink||Calories x 1 drink||Calories x 3 drinks||Calories x 5 drinks|
|Single vodka, lime and soda||70kcals||210kcals||350kcals|
|Small glass of red wine (125ml)||130kcals||390kcals||650kcals|
|Pint of lager||225kcals||675kcals||1125kcals|
As you can see, there is a vast difference between drinking five vodka, lime and sodas and five pints of lager. You could have three vodkas for the same calories as the beer. And the fact that the Jager bomb has more calories in it than a glass of wine seems crazy. That’s why it’s good to be armed with some facts before you leave the house.
If you know roughly how many calories there are in a drink it’s going to be a lot easier to make smart choices (that is until you start getting really drunk and all reason goes out of the window!).
Knowledge is power
If we delve a little deeper into the calorie counts for certain alcoholic drinks, we can arm ourselves even more with facts. After all, knowledge is power!
If spirits are your tipple of choice there is quite a difference between the calorie count of white and dark spirits. As a general rule, the paler the spirit the less calories it contains. Take a look at the table below.
|Drink (25ml single measure)||Calories x 1 drink||Calories x 3 drinks||Calories x 5 drinks|
|Captain Morgan rum||61kcals||183kcals||305kcals|
The mixer you add to your spirit of choice can make a big difference to your calorie count too. If you opt for diet or low-sugar soft drinks you’ll be saving yourself a lot of calories. For example, a single vodka and Coke contains 108kcals, while a single vodka and Diet Coke contains 52kcals – that’s less than half the calories.
If beer is more up your alley, there is quite a difference in the types of beers you can get these days and the number of calories they contain. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the alcohol content (% ABV) the more calories it contains, as you can see from the table below.
|Drink (1 pint/568ml)||% ABV||Calories x 1 drink||Calories x 3 drinks||Calories x 5 drinks|
It is pretty common these days for bars and restaurants to offer low alcohol or no-alcohol beers. In terms of taste, alcohol-free beers have come a long way in the last few years so they are a worthy consideration when counting calories as they can save you a lot. Take a look at the table below.
(We get that for some people alcohol-free beer seems pointless, as it doesn’t achieve the ‘feeling’ they are aiming for but for many people having a non-alcoholic beer is enough to satisfy their taste buds and make them feel socially acceptable!)
|Drink (330ml bottle)||% ABV||Calories x 1 drink||Calories x 3 drinks||Calories x 5 drinks|
|Budweiser Prohibition Brew||0.05%||111kcals||333kcals||555kcals|
|Brew Dog Nanny State||0.5%||81kcals||243kcals||405kcals|
Note, that a low-alcohol beer is different to a low-calorie beer, but these exist too. For example, a 330ml bottle of Coors Light is 4% ABV but contains only 116kcals.
If you’re more of a cocktail kind-of-a-person and a mocktail won’t satisfy you then you need to be careful about what you choose. Most cocktails contain a lot of alcohol and sugary mixers. Take a look at the table below.
|Cocktail||Calories x 1 drink||Calories x 3 drinks||Calories x 5 drinks|
|Long Island iced tea||218kcals||654kcals||1090kcals|
There is a lot of choice out there so it can be a bit of a minefield but there are apps available containing all the information you could need about the calorie content and alcohol percentage of alcoholic drinks, such as the drinkaware app (this is also useful for tracking your drinks if you want to attempt to do that while out).
The main event
So, as you can see there are plenty of lower calorie drink options and there are ways of moderating calories, such as the amount you drink.
Choosing bottled beer over pints helps to keep calories lower as a standard bottle contains 330ml, as opposed to the 568ml in a pint. Also, choosing single measures of spirits and small glasses of wine all help to limit calories.
Think about what you eat while you’re out, or when you get home – inebriation commonly beats self-control when it comes to food! Take a look at our Eating Out Guide if you need some tips on how to manage food calories when you’re out.
The day after
Are there things we can do to limit the damage after the event? Luckily, the answer is yes, there are a few tricks.
Firstly, if you over-indulged a little don’t let one night ruin your whole diet. Dust yourself down and get back on the horse. You may be feeling fragile and lacking in will power but dig deep and things will seem so much better tomorrow. Don’t let one night spiral into a whole weekend of over-indulgence or the end of your diet programme.
If you successfully reduced your calories leading up to the night out, and you were able to keep to the allotted calories while you were out, there’s no reason why you should do anything differently the next day.
If you went over your intended calories, it will make sense to take this into account and work on reducing calories slightly the day or two after the event. Again, this will work on keeping your weekly average in line with where you want to be.
You will most likely be dehydrated the morning after, so keeping on top of your water intake will be important, as will the food choices you make. If you crave a greasy fry up just opt for a slightly healthier version instead, by grilling your bacon and sausages and scrambling or poaching your eggs.
- Alcohol contains 7kcals per gram, and is nearly as calorie dense as fat which contains 9kcals per gram
- It is very easily consumed due to the fact it’s a liquid form of calories, and we know these add up quickly
- There are certain drinks which contain far less calories such as a spirit and a diet mixer, however the calorie contents will ultimately be based on the quantity you consume
- There are ways to factor in alcohol to your week, such as reducing calorie intake a few days prior to a night out to allow yourself a calorie buffer on the night out
- When you are out and you find yourself getting hungry, try to leave the Dominoes pizza and Doner kebab alone and choose a lower calorie option
- The following day try to regain usual eating habits or adjust calories if you exceeded your intake the day before.
Socialising is an important part of our lives and we don’t want a diet to affect this. There will always be ways of working around situations and making smarter choices, which will enable you to keep doing the things you enjoy, while still achieving the goals you have set.